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Transport in London

Oyster - Skate - Tube - Bus - Tram - DLR - Bicycle - Motorcycle

- Taxi - Driving - Boat -

 

map london book

If you arrive in London, we recommend that you buy the Lonely Planet Citymap. They’re inexpensive and very handy for sight-seeing on foot!

 

London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite Londoners' constant, and sometimes justified, grumbling about unreliablity, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere in London for visitors and residents alike and is far more reliable than locals would have you believe. Indeed, nearly a third of London households do not feel the need to own a car. Transport for London (TfL) is the body responsible for London's transport

network, predominantly made up of the Underground, buses, rail and trams. London has recently been awarded the city with the best public transport in the world.

The Oyster Card

 

oyster card london
tfl logo london

Transport for London runs a contactless smartcard called Oyster. It can have travelcards added, which allow various passes for London's transport system to be added. It also allows cash to be added for pay-as-you-go. In both cases, you press the card against a yellow disc, prominently displayed on buses and trams and on the entry and exit gates for the Tube.

The Oyster Card can be obtained from any Tube station for a deposit of 3. This is fully refundable if you hand it in at the end of the trip. If you have any pay-as-you-go credit left, this will also be refunded. However, there is no expiry date on the Oyster Card or any pay-as-you-go credit on the card.

If you're going to be doing a lot of travelling by public transport, Travelcards have to be on an Oyster. Pay-as-you-go on Oyster is much cheaper than paying in cash for each journey - for instance, a cash bus fare is 2.20, while with Oyster it is 1.30. It also saves time getting onto buses - in the central area, tickets have to be bought at a machine by the bus stop if you don't have an Oyster and outside the zone from the driver. If you use pay-as-you-go and spend enough in a day to qualify for a Travelcard, it will be automatically put on your Oystercard, saving you from paying any more money. Using an Oyster will also make you look more like a Londoner!

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Skating in London

 

roller blading london

Inline skating is legal in London, both on the roads and the pavement, with the exception of within the City of London (The Square Mile). Roads are not the greatest, but easily skatable. In the centre cars and taxis are more used to seeing skaters than on the outskirts of the city.

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The Tube /Underground

tube london commuting
tube logo london

The London Underground - also known popularly as "The Tube" - has trains that criss-cross London in the largest underground rail network anywhere in the world (it was also the first, the first section of the Metropolitan Line dates back to 1863). This mode of transport is usually the fastest way to get from one part of London to another, the only problem being the relative expense (go for Oyster, if you can), and the fact that it can get extremely crowded during "rush hours" (7:30AM-9:30AM and 4:30PM-7PM). Take a bottle of water with you on warm days. Trains run from around 5:30AM to about 1am at night. Tube maps are freely available from any stations.

The Tube is made up of twelve lines, each bearing a traditional name and a standard colour on the Tube Map . To plan your trip on The Tube, work out first which station is closest to your starting point and which closest to your destination. Use the Tube Map to determine which line(s) you will take. You are able to change freely between lines at interchange stations (providing you stay within the zones shown on your ticket, or via any reasonable route for single-destination tickets). Since the Tube Map is well designed it is very easy to work out how to get between any two stations, and since each station is clearly signed and announced it is easy to work out when to get off your train. The Tube is therefore an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London.

Visitors should be aware, however, that the Tube map is actually a diagram and not a scaled map, making it misleading for determining the relative distance between stations as it makes central stations appear further apart and somewhat out of place. The Tube map also gives no information on London's extensive overground bus network and its orbital rail network. An integrated map of London's Tube, Train and Bus Map can be purchased online at mapvendor or alternatively you can view the map online.

Travel on The Tube has become extremely erratic as of late, especially on the weekends. Many sections of The Tube are shut down on the weekends due to "planned engineering" work. Transport for London's website (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/) has constant updates about these disruptions of service.

The Tube system is divided up into several Zones in concentric circles from Zone 1 (central London, containing most of the primary tourist attractions) all the way out to Zone 6 (outer suburbs and Heathrow Airport). Fares depend on which zone you start in and how many zones you cross. Single cash fares for an adult are 4 for most trips, including anything within Zones 1 thru 3, or 4 to £6 for any that stays outside Zone 1 (January 2011). Travelcards offer much better value if you will be making several journeys - an off-peak Day Travelcard for Zones 1-2 is available after 9.30am each day, for example, at 6.60. Detailed fare information is available at any Tube station or from the TfL website . Using a pre-pay Oyster card reduces fare prices significantly with a Zone 1 single fare costing 1.90 whilst a journey between Zones 1 and 6 costs 2.70 off peak or 4.50 during the peak time. Oyster cards are available at every Underground station but require payment of a deposit of 3; this is refunded when the card is returned. Another advantage of using an Oyster card is that it is automatically capped to a relevant daily Travelcard price - see below.

If you buy a weekly ticket, you do not have to wait until after 9:30AM and the average price per day will be even cheaper. Oyster cards can again be used for such tickets, along with other seasonal tickets.

There is a general "underground etiquette" amongst Londoners on the Tube, and it's a good idea to learn it quickly so you don't get trampled on by stampeding commuters, and it will also help prevent you being identified as a tourist by pickpockets and touts which still frequent the large central stations.

* Always stand on the RIGHT when using the escalators and passageways to allow people on in a hurry to pass. Londoners can be pretty bad at doing this, but it is very important. People will occasionally shove you out the way if you are standing on the left.

* Have your ticket or Oyster card ready for when you get to the top of the escalators so not to obstruct the barriers.

* Move down the platforms whilst waiting on a train to allow for others coming down the escalators behind you.

* Don't carry excessive amounts of luggage, especially at peak times.

* Move clear of ticket halls, station entrances and at the foot of escalators.

* If a train arrives and is badly overcrowded, look at the information display on the platform to see when the next train is due. If it's only a couple of minutes behind, you would be as well to wait, as it could be less crowded.

* Ticket touts are common at the large interchange stations, and try to collect unwanted Travelcards so they can sell on at a profit - the money is often used for drugs and other illicit activities. It is illegal to buy a ticket from a tout.

* Beware of pickpockets. They often prey on disorientated tourists at the stations which connect with major rail terminuses (Euston, Waterloo etc.) and tourist attractions. Always keep your belongings in an inside pocket.

* ALWAYS allow passengers to get off the train before boarding yourself. Also, DO NOT stand directly in front of the doors while passengers are trying to get off. Always stand either to the right or to the left of the opening train doors, and allow all passengers to disembark before attempting to get on the train yourself. Adhering to this simple 'train-iquette' will make life a lot easier.

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The Buses

bus london trident metro double decker red
bus tfl logo london

London's iconic red buses are recognised the world over, even if the traditional open-platform Routemaster buses have been largely phased out. Over 5 million bus trips are made each weekday; with over 700 different bus routes you are never far from a bus in London.

Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short trips (less than a couple of stops on the Tube), and out of central London you're likely to be closer to a bus stop than a tube station. Bus lines running parallel to London Underground (The Tube) lines shut down on the weekends for "planned engineering work" can be extremely crowded. The difficulty with buses over the tube is knowing when to get off; while tube stations are clearly marked it is sometimes more difficult to work out where to get off a bus. Your best bet is to ask fellow passengers and/or to trace your route on a map. Bus drivers are sometimes helpful and sometimes not, but they're usually too busy to be able to tell you when you've reached your destination.

Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters, for example the 73 runs between Seven Sisters and Victoria. Buses display their route number in large digits at the front, side, and rear of the bus. Each bus stop has a sign listing the routes that will stop there. Standard bus services run from around 6am in the morning to 12:30AM at night. Around midnight the bus network changes to the Night Bus network. Bus routes, numbers and timetable all change with most of the buses radiating out from around the Trafalgar Square area to most outlying parts of Greater London. Night buses are identified by an 'N' at the start of the route number, for example the N73 runs between Walthamstow Central and Victoria. The night bus service is a reliable and often interesting way to get home at night.

Bus journeys are cheaper than taking the Tube, at cash fare 2.20 or £1.30 via oyster per trip (January 2011). Children under 14 travels free on production of a Child Oyster card. However, unlike The Tube, single tickets do not allow you to transfer to different buses. Consider using an Oyster card if you will be making several trips a day, available at some rail stations, tube stations and some London airports. The daily price cap is £4; so you will never pay more than £4 no matter how many bus trips you have done with your oyster card (allowing unlimited bus journeys for an entire day (and night - up till 4:30AM the next day on the night bus network) across the whole of Greater London. ). Fares are the same for night buses as for regular services.

An Oyster card requires a 3 refundable deposit.

Yellow route signs indicate you must purchase your ticket before you board. This means you must either have a Travelcard, a Pre-Pay Oyster card, or have bought single ticket from a machine at the bus stop. Note that these machines don't provide change.

Old-fashioned Routemaster buses, with an open rear platform and on-board conductor to collect fares, run on Heritage Routes 9 and 15 every 15 minutes, every day between about 09:30 and 18:30.

Many of the most popular buses, including the 29 bus tend to be of the double-length articulated variety, known as bendy buses. This could be related to the relative ease of hopping on and off these without paying (at stops, doors open along the length of the bus). This is, however, illegal and can be very risky - large teams of inspectors frequently descend on these buses accompanied by police, and it's entirely possible to be arrested and prosecuted. Care should be taken as it is possible for those unfamiliar with this type of bus to get on board and then have no way of paying. Routes served by this type of bus always carry a yellow route sign as detailed above.

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The Tram

tram london
tram london logo tfl

There's an electric tram network running between South-West & South-East of outer London (Wimbledon to Beckenham). The tram fares are the same as busfares; Travelcards covering zones 3,4,5 or any combination thereof, and/or bus passes, are acceptable on all tram routes.

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The DLR

dlr train
dlr logo docklands light rail way

Docklands Light Rail (DLR) is a dedicated light rail network operating in east London, connecting with the Underground network at Bank and Tower Gateway.

Apart from the trains looking slightly different and running slightly less frequently than the Tube, visitors may as well treat the two systems as the same. The DLR uses the same system of Zones as the Tube, and travelcards are valid on DLR services. As the trains often operate without a driver, it can be quite exciting - especially for children - to sit in front and look at through the window, whilst feeling as though one is driving the train oneself.

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Bicycle

cycle london sign hyde park corner
street logo bicycle london

Due to the expense of other forms of transport and the compactness of central London, cycling is a tempting option. Many improvements have been made for cyclists in the city over the last few years, even if they remain no more than gestures in most places. Noticeably, there are many new signposted cycle routes and some new cycle lanes, not to mention more cyclists since the July 2005 public transport attacks. Excellent free cycle maps detailing these routes can be obtained from your local tube stations, bike shop, or ordered online. However, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists, generally speaking. A contiguous skeletal cycle lane network does not exist. The safest option is to stick to minor residential roads where traffic can be surprisingly calm outside rush hours.

The towpaths along the Grand Union and Regent's Canals in North London are the closest thing to a truly traffic-free cycle path in the capital. In summer they are crowded with pedestrians and not suitable for cycling, but in winter or late in the evening they offer a very fast and safe way to travel from east to west in North London. The Grand Union canal connects Paddington to Camden and the Regent's Canal connects Camden to Islington, Mile End and Limehouse in East London. It takes about 30-40 min to cycle from Paddington station to Islington along the towpaths.

Helmets are not compulsory for cyclists in the UK, and opinions differ on their value. In London, many cyclists, especially those seen in rush hour, also wear filter masks, but their efficacy is even more argued over. London motorists seem reluctant to acknowledge the existence of cyclists, especially at busy junctions.

Non-folding bikes can only be taken on limited sections of The Tube network, mostly only on the above-ground sections outside peak hours. There is a map showing this on the TFL website. Most rail operators allow bicycles outside peak hours also. For this reason, folding bicycles are becoming increasingly popular.

Care should be taken as to where you choose to park your bike. Many areas, some surprisingly busy, attract cycle thieves, while chaining a bicycle to a railing which appears to be private property can occasionally lead to said bike being removed.

The London Cycle Campaign is an advocacy group for London cyclists and organises regular group rides and events. Critical Mass London meets for regular rides through central London at 6pm on the last Friday of each month. Rides start from the southern end of Waterloo Bridge.

Barclays Cycle Hire

It is a public bicycle sharing scheme that was launched on 30 July 2010 in London, United Kingdom. At launch there were 5,000 bicycles and 315 docking stations available in central London. Those likely to make regular use of the scheme should register on the TfL website and sign up for one of three levels of access: daily, weekly or yearly. Users are then sent a key in the post to operate the docking stations which they must activate before they use it for the first time - a key costs 3, and up to four can be registered under a single account. Scheme members insert the membership key into a docking point key slot; an amber light indicates that the account is being verified, then a green light indicates that the cycle can be undocked. The scheme has also been made available to casual users who have not registered with TfL. Those with a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card can go to their nearest docking station and follow the simple on screen instructions at the terminal to release a bike. Once the user has purchased their access period (for either 24 hours or seven days) the first 30 minutes of any journey will be free of usage charges.

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Motorcycle / Scooter

scooter london parking bay parked bedford street covent garden

Arguably the fastest way around London. Parking for motorbikes and scooters is free at many of the reserved areas (except within the borough of Westminster where it will cost you £1 per day or £3.50 per week). The congestion zone does not apply, and thus for anyone commuting it's usually the cheapest option.

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Taxi

taxi rank sign london black cab

black cab london

 

London has two types of taxis: the black cabs, and so-called mini-cabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to 'tout for business' (ie pick people up off the street), while minicabs are more accurately described as 'private hire vehicles' and need to be pre-booked.

The black cabs of London can be hailed from the curb or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks . Their yellow 'TAXI' light will be on if they are available (picking you up while light if off is illegal). Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute, are non-smoking, and have a minimum charge of 2.20. They are a cheap transport option if there are five passengers as they do not charge extras, and many view them as an essential experience for any visitor to London. Drivers must take an extensive exam in London's streets to be licensed for a black cab, meaning they can supposedly navigate you to almost any London street without reference to a map. Apparently though, the training does not involve road safety, and respect for other road users. Black Cabs will constantly go over the speed limit, go over red light, u turn, and block traffic without any consideration for others. It is possible to book black cabs by phone, for a fee, but if you are in central London it will usually be quicker to hail one from the street.

Minicabs are licenced hire vehicles that you need to book by phone or at a minicab office. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey, best agreed before you get in the car. Minicabs are usually cheaper than black cabs, although this is not necessarily the case for short journeys.

Note that some areas in London are poorly serviced by black cabs, particularly late at night. This has led to a large number of illegal 'mini-cabs' operating - just opportunistic people, with a car, looking to make some fast money. These illegal drivers are unlicensed and sadly they are often unsafe: a number of women are assaulted every week by illegal minicab operators. Some of these operators can be fairly aggressive in their attempts to find custom, and it's now barely possible to walk late at night through any part of London with a modicum of nightlife without being approached. You should avoid "mini-cabs" touting for business off the street and either take a black cab, book a licensed mini-cab by going to their office or by telephone, or take a night bus. Licensed minicabs display a Transport For London (TFL) License Plate - usually in the front window.

Tipping is not mandatory. Use your discretion - the fares are usually high enough.

For your airport transfer, we recommend Aerotransfer. For cheap taxi to Stansted Airport - Cheap Taxi to Heathrow - Cheap Taxi to Gatwick - Cheap Taxi to Luton airport - Cheap Taxi to London City Airport

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Driving

traffic jam london congestion
congestion charge london

Driving in Central London is a slow, frustrating, expensive and often unnecessary activity. Londoners who drive will normally take public transport in the centre; follow their example. Traffic is slow and heavy, there are many sorts of automatic enforcement cameras, and it is difficult and expensive to park.

Car drivers should be aware that driving into Central London on weekdays during daylight hours incurs a hefty charge, with very few exemptions (note that rental cars also attract the charge). Cameras and mobile units record and identify the number plates and registration details of all vehicles entering the charging zone with high accuracy.

The Central London Congestion Charge attracts a fee of 10 Monday through Friday 7AM-6:00PM (excluding public holidays) if paid the same day before 10PM (after 10PM until midnight, a surcharge of 2 is added to encourage early payment, totalling 12). Failure to pay the charge by 12 midnight the same day incurs a hefty automatic fine of 120 (reduced to 60 if paid within 2 weeks). Numerous payment options exist: by phone, by voucher and online.

Despite the Congestion Charge, London - like most major cities - continues to experience traffic snarls. These are, of course, worse on weekdays during peak commuting hours, i.e. between 7:30AM - 9:30AM and 4PM - 7PM At these times public transport (and especially the Tube) usually offers the best alternative for speed and reduced hassle. Parking during weekdays and Saturdays can also mean considerable expense in parking fees - fees and restrictions are ignored at your extreme financial peril - issuing fines, clamping and towing vehicles has become a veritable new industry for borough councils staffed by armies of traffic wardens. Find and read the parking restrictions carefully! A good tip is, that outside advertised restriction hours, parking on a single yellow line is permissible. Parking on a red line or a double yellow line is never permissible and heavily enforced.

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BOAT

clipper thames river boat london tower bridge
river boat london tfl public transport

Commuters can benefit from frequent and fast services operating all day from Masthouse Terrace Pier in the east to Savoy Pier on the Embankment. Peak hours extensions run to Woolwich Arsenal with a further peak service from Blackfriars Pier in the City to Putney Pier in the west.

All vessels operating from Woolwich Arsenal Pier to Savoy Pier will be equipped with WiFi Hotspots, enabling high speed internet access.

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